home | toys | gifts | pets | company


Remote Cat Exerciser?
You've got to pounce on this.


By Stephanie Schorow
Thursday, April 22, 2004

Humans can be so thoughtless.

"Wow, your cat is fat," they remark when they meet Titan. "He's just got long, fluffy fur," I retort, bristling. "He's just got big bones. And, OK, he's on a diet. Like me."

Alas, neither cat nor cat owner is exercising and eating as one should. We'd both rather snuggle in an armchair, eat treats and watch Animal Planet.

So I jumped at the chance to test a "remote-control cat
exerciser." Made by the Japanese toy Takara, Cat Attack features the latest in cat motivation technology. I pictured myself relaxing in a comfy chair, clicking the TV remote in one hand and the Cat Attack remote in the other, as Titan pounced away the pounds.

But would my 10-year-old feline treat Cat Attack as he did the
various scratching posts that now sit, in pristine condition, in the closet?

Opening the box, I found a bowl-sized device in the shape of a
rotund kitty. Into its "head" I inserted a "chaos wand," a flexible
plastic stick with a tassel dangling at one end. This wand moves on its own when I activate the base, which runs on three batteries. A separate remote (requiring two batteries) lets me move the base forward or spin it.

I settled into my shredded armchair and called for Titan. He
sauntered in and froze, gaze fixed on the moving tassel, which, I had to admit, was pretty mesmerizing; its jerky stops and swings had no mechanical regularity, making me shout, "It's alive!"

The movement was too alluring. Titan reached out a paw. I decided to begin the workout and pressed the button to spin the base. Whoosh? Titan jumped about 25 feet as the machine growled to life.

But Titan landed on his feet, of course, and held his ground. In
a few minutes he decided the noise was no worse than that of the coffee grinder (which startled him only the first time he heard it) and renewed his stalk and pounce.

Though he definitely liked to get his teeth on the tassel - twice
he pulled it so hard the machine tipped over like a drunk R2D2 - he preferred to stare at it with peculiar feline intensity until instinct gradually overcame inertia. Cat Attack became Kitty TV.

Curious about that "chaos wand," I spoke with Peter Harwood,
Takara USA marketing director. He told me Japanese scientists have been able to map a mouse's neural patterns and translate them into an algorithm. That algorithm, encoded on a tiny chip, directs the wand to mimic the stop and scurry movements of a rodent. This proves irresistible to the hard-wiring of a cat brain.

Moreover, Harwood added, the cat accessory market is booming: "Pets are the new kids."

After all, humans and cats aren't that different. Isn't TV itself
programmed to trigger the human instinct for food, sex and maxing out your Visa card? When I click both remotes, two illusions are at work.

Titan thinks he's stalking a mouse; I think I'm actually in control of television. And neither of us seems to be losing weight.

(Cat Attack, which retails for $25, can be purchased starting in May at www.toysrus.com. For information, go to takara-usa.com.)